Ralph Santana: Once a Miner, Always a Miner

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By WSIL Sports

MARION -- In a game where players come and go often, Ralph Santana is the exception. The Orlando, Florida native has been in Marion for the last seven years, first as a player and now as a coach.

"I love everything about this town," Santana said.

Ralph hit .342 in the Miners' inaugural season in 2007 and was named the Frontier League's top second baseman. The next year, Santana reached the League's age limit of 27 and could no longer play. Instead of leaving town, he stayed and joined manager Mike Pinto's staff as first base coach.

"Me and Mike kind of came to an agreement that if I played out here for Southern, he'd help me find a coaching job," Santana said. "One thing led to another and I was an assistant coach here so it's worked out ever since."

Santana always knew he wanted to be a coach but admits it was a harder transition than he anticipated. Especially coaching the players he suited up with just a year before.

"That's just a totally different aspect," he said. "When you were playing, it's a little easier cause you don't have to lay down the law as bad as when you're coaching."

Santana has immersed himself in the Southern Illinois culture. He recently bought a home here. The 32-year old has had multiple offers to manage elsewhere, but much like Pinto, he's turned them all down to stay in Marion.

"I've had opportunities to join major league organization's and I'm going to pass on that," Pinto said. "This is my big league team and we treat it like that, Ralph does as I do."

"People have looked at me like I'm crazy," Santana added. "But like I said, you can't find this anywhere. Not only that but I did special things here and that counts for things. This place is just special to me."

Santana admits he won't be in Marion forever. He'd like to coach for a big league team some day. But for now, he'll enjoy every chance he gets to be a part of the best team in the Frontier League.
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